by Heather Perry, Director of Training and Consulting
Over the past couple days I have had the privilege of attending and participating in Let’s Talk Coffee and the World Barista Forum in Tarapoto, Peru. It all started late Tuesday when many of us flew into Lima and stayed the night at the airport hotel only to leave a few hours later for our early morning flight to Tarapota. The crew for the day included myself, the staff from Sustainable Harvest, Marcus Young, Mike Strumpf, Skip Finley, Ken Olsen and many others. When we landed in Tarapoto we went for breakfast at a local coffee shop so we could get a feel for the local coffee culture. After breakfast we went to Lamas, a close by city, and checked out what would be our home for the next two days. We stayed at a coop by the name of Oro Verde, and dove right into the topic of conversation for the next two days; how do we help to build a coffee culture, more specifically a barista culture, at origin. With so many good minds there were lots of great ideas, and the conversation got even better when we were joined later that night by the baristas who had been competing in the Seed to Cup challenge at a farm a few hours away. The Seed to Cup participants included the Barista Champions of Mexico, Australia, Greece, Honduras, Guatemala, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Canada, and many other local participants.
The next day we continued along the same conversation lines, but added a field trip of sorts. The Coop that had been hosting us also had a café in town, and we broke up into groups and made recommendations on what the café could do to improve quality and sales. Our recommendations ranged from simple ambiance changes to more elaborate changes regarding equipment and training. It was a great exercise because it brought to life problems that many cafes at origin face, and Sustainable Harvest wrote down all the recommendations hoping to create something they can use long term.
Later that day we moved from Lamas into the town of Tarapoto where Let’s Talk Coffee would be taking place, and we gathered at a poolside reception with all 300 participants. The next day things kicked into full gear. The format of Let’s Talk Coffee is one where there are large assemblies, and then break into smaller groups where they choose what interests them most. The assemblies for this year covered topics such as the Denomination of Origin, and the Science of Taste, while smaller group options included Cupping, How to Thrive in a Volatile Market, and of course one-on-one meetings between roasters and their producers. The first morning a small group option was brewing technologies brought to by the baristas. We had ten station going and covered everything from espresso and mypressi to siphon, pour over, water quality, French press and more. The groups spent about 10 minutes at each station, enough to taste the method and see what it is all about. I did the Mypressi station with Thomas Schweiger and Colin Whitcomb from Alterra. What surprised us most was how many producers attended our session. For many of them this was the first time they had seen most of the brewing methods, and for some this was the first time they had actually tasted their own coffee. It was a great experience and really an honor to be able to share our knowledge with such deserving people.
The rest of the day was spent manning our stations during coffee breaks and serving great coffee as well sharing knowledge amongst ourselves. We shared our preferred siphon and pour over methods, talked about what makes a great tulip, and of course, had a few throw downs. That night was Sevan’s Grill, hosted by Sevan of Café Mystique in Montreal. The idea behind the grill is the roasters serve the producers. The grill took place near the pool and was complete with a live 12 piece band. The food was filling and the cervezas kept coming. Before long everyone was dancing and then it happened, someone pushed someone in the pool, and then we were all in pool. It was a great night spent with great friends.
The next day the baristas again manned our station for the coffee breaks in the morning, and then rearranged things for the Single Origin Espresso Competition taking place later in the afternoon. The competition had 20 coffee’s, half provided by producers and half by roasters. The coffees were all double blind so no one knew what they pulling or what they were tasting. Soren and Raul were pulling half the espresso’s on their machine and serving to four judges, while Thomas and Stefanos were pulling the other half and serving to four different judges. The judges included WBC Certified judges Mike Strumpf and Ian Clark, and other amazing cuppers such a Sunalini Menon and Marcus Young. The top three coffee from each round advanced to a finals round where Klatch’s own Ethiopian Amaro Gayo took top honors. The judges loved its floral aroma, distinct berry taste, and overall sweetness it brought to the cup.
The next day all the participants went on a field trip to Lamas where we rotated through modules on depulping, drying, storage, cacao processing, biodigestors, and the history of coffee preparation in Peru. After a long morning we were treated a beautiful lunch complete with a cabelleros show featuring the famous Peruvian horses. While we had taken a bus to get to Lamas, the baristas decided to pile into the back of a truck for the ride back down into town. It was a beautiful sight and we all had a great time.
The final day was spent in Lima. We all had early morning flights out of Tarapota, and late night flights leaving Lima, so we went into town and visited local cafes including Café Verde and Arabica.
I write this while I am on a plane from Lima, and headed straight to Camp Pull a Shot in Santa Barbara. I can’t wait to take the enthusiasm from Let’s Talk Coffee and my time with so many amazing baristas, roasters, and producers, and share it with the over 110 participants of the BGA’s first camp.